Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represent . per cent of the overall population, however, across Australia in there were only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people enrolled in engineering degrees, less than . per cent of overall enrolments.
And there’s only about Indigenous architecture graduates in Australia. Rueben Berg, Director of Indigenous Architecture Victoria, counts himself amongst them. His fight for an Indigenous perspective in building and planning is not always easy, but provides real benefits to Aboriginal communities, as well as the companies he works with.
That’s why he is advising EWB and Engineers Australia on the establishment of two new reconciliation initiatives for engineering and related technical industries.
Reconciliation works best when approached as a mutually beneficial partnership, he says. “Coming at things from an Aboriginal perspective [can] achieve some great outcomes for projects overall, as well as respecting Aboriginal culture,” he explains.
He cites a sustainable housing development in Brisbane that uses solar hot water and collects rainwater runoff, respecting Aboriginal values about stewardship of the environment and creating a comfortable space for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to live together. “This out of the box way of approaching reconciliation is really powerful.”
Closing the Gap
Indigenous Australians battle systemic disadvantage every day. The Prime Minister’s recent “Closing the Gap” report highlights the need for change: Indigenous unemployment is worsening, and there is still a staggering -year gap in life expectancy.
EWB and EA believe the engineering sector can help.
“There’s a lot of need for engineering work in and around remote, regional and urban Aboriginal communities,” explains Berg, “so by facilitating those projects to happen in a more culturally appropriate way, we can help build their capacity.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with internal engineering and technical knowledge are more empowered to participate in decisions relating to their country and better placed to benefit from engineering jobs in their communities.
Working Together for Change
Many Australian engineering companies already have Reconciliation Action Plans or Aboriginal Employment Strategies.
EWB and Engineers Australia believe that sharing this collective experience and working together will be exponentially more effective in creating large-scale change.
These sector-wide initiative amplify the impact of reconciliation by bringing together education, business, government, community organisations and Aboriginal partners to learn from each other’s experiences and create clear, linked pathways for positive change in engineering.
We’ve seen that progress is possible: the intake of Indigenous Australian medical students hit a new high of . per cent in due to the health sector’s coordinated approach to improving employment.
It’s time for the engineering sector to do the same.
Reconciliation in Engineering
The new Reconciliation initiatives have two goals: to share resources, learning and best practices, and to create linked and accessible technical career pathways for Aboriginal Australians.
Best Practice Guidance
More and more engineering organisations are working on projects that have an impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. However, there is no national platform to share knowledge or determine what is leading practice in working collaboratively with Aboriginal communities.
To fill this gap, EWB and Engineers Australia have launched an open Community of Practice to collect and share resources, learning and experience.
The Community of Practice will develop a set of industry-wide best practices, offer training and support for organisations working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and support community access to engineering activities both on and off country.
Technical Career Pathway
EWB and Engineers Australia are also building a network of partners in the engineering sector to offer linked education and career pathways.
This is a proven method of improving access for Indigenous students, building economic and career opportunities and empowering communities.
This amplified Indigenous voice would benefit everyone, says Berg.
“[Aboriginal culture] is something that everyone can embrace and see as part of Australian culture… All Australians are now living and sharing this landscape, so they are living and sharing Aboriginal culture as well,” he says.
Contact email@example.com for more information.
Written by Katie Shozi
Photos:Rueben Berg, Indigenous Architecture Victoria
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